Paradise lost

Dust we are and to dust we shall return.

Walk  through the ruins of Pompeii and use your imagination. The sun is scorching the valley and the Pompeian citizens flee to the coolness of their well insulated houses. Its a special day today. Election day. There is excitement in the air and everybody is feverish and tense because the result will decide the future of daily lives of many of Pompey’s inhabitants. Taxes, that is what is foremost on the mind of Maximus Cercus. He has spent sleepless nights counting his money over and over again, calculating the worth of his possessions,mainly vineyards and lemon orchards. Its precisely these goods that causes him to loose appetite. What has he done to deserve this? He doesn’t mind taxes, but if the Prefect gets elected and imposes another hike, he’ll simply will get robbed off his livelihood.  It’s a complot against the Jewish merchants. Maximus gnaws on a slip of his tunic, he should have seen it coming, he should have known that this new vogue of politics meant trouble for hard working businessmen like him. For a long time he had managed just fine. In exchange for offerings to their pageant Gods and contributions to their Gymnasium and sponsorship to their gladiators and chariot races, the plebs had left him alone to his trading with the sea faring foreign ships like the Europa, and they had tolerated the foreigners and they had left the sailors to enter the city unharmed. Everybody won, even whores and some slaves eventually could save enough to buy their freedom. But this new Prefect is a populist if ever there has been one. He understood as none before how to divide and rule. “Citizens of Pompeii” he had declaimed just days ago, in the poet’s theatre. ” Do you not see that your wealth is at stake? Can you not feel that you are being screwed over by a small group of unusually rich people among you? Who is enjoying the benefits of your bitterly earned money? Sure, they pay taxes, just like you do, but they have ways to make that money return to their own pockets. Listen to me, I am the son of a simple road worker. I have not had any of the privileges of these rich men. But I have studied their ways and behold I tell you, they use your money to enrich themselves on. It is time for change and your time for change can start if you vote for me, Weberamus Bartholomew!”

He had spared no costs,  the walls of Via Stabianus were covered with his slogans and he had found allegiance with the extremists whose agenda it is to ban sailors from the city accusing these foreigners to corrupt our values and our mores. What mores? Haven’t we always taken over the best of all worlds and merged it with our own culture to make it into something  typical Pompeian? Are not our temples adorned in Corinthians and Dorian styles, are not our houses painted and decorated by artists from all over the world and are we, the Jews, not the ones who have brought citrus and other fruit to this valley? If Bartholomew gets more power, he will use it to destroy us, and the people will only figure out what they’ve done after it is too late!

Maximum sunk to his knees and started to prey with the words that he remembered from his own ancestors. He tore a piece of his tunic and wept bitter tears.

And high above the city, riding on the warm wind, vultures circled over one of the most powerful cities in the Roman empire.

And Mount Vesuvius whispered and then grumbled between clenched teeth, and let out a roar!